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Avoiding Falls: Especially in the Bathroom

  • Avoiding Falls: Especially in the Bathroom

By Kevin Cleary

 

                Falls are one of the leading causes of injury to our older population. A fall can happen anywhere; on the stairs, outside on unlevel terrain, and especially our bathroom. Our bathrooms are loaded with slippery surfaces just waiting to reach out and grab us. The mixture of water and ceramic tile or acrylic plastic creates a surface with a low coefficient of friction. In simple terms…slippery!! To avoid a potentially dangerous situation, foresight and preparation is a must.

Avoiding Falls: Especially in the Bathroom

Statistics Prove Danger

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), every year 2.5 million older people are treated at emergency rooms for injuries related to falls. What can be disturbing is that some of these people do not even report the fall to their doctors. In the elderly, 95% of all hip fractures are caused by falling sideways. As we age, we become less stable on our feet. Getting our aging relatives and friends to simply use canes or walkers/rollators can go a long way to stabilizing them as they walk especially on uneven terrain. Creating a stable environment can help eliminate some of the $34 billion annually the CDC says we spend on medical costs associated with falling. The CDC lists several causes of falls that include:

  • Lower body weakness
  • Difficulties with walking or balance
  • Medications (including some OTC medicines that can affect balance)
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Vision problems
  • Foot pain/poor footwear

Avoiding Falls: Especially in the Bathroom

Biggest Culprit

Avoiding Falls: Especially in the BathroomOne of the most common areas for a slip and fall can be the bathroom and stairs. To tackle the problem of stairs, handrails should be installed on both sides of the stairs and make sure hardwood floor stairs have some form of carpeting on them. Most of our bathrooms have a tile floor of some kind and our bathtub is made of porcelain or some form of acrylic. When water is added, the surfaces can be extremely slippery. Securing our bathrooms takes just a little bit of thought and we can create a safer environment. To handle the potentially dangerous task of stepping in and out of the bathtub, grab bars and even bath railings can be installed in and out of the tub. When showering, make the surface inside your tub less dangerous by utilizing bath and shower mats. They help with traction not only when you’re entering or exiting the shower, but when you are running the water creating a hazardous situation. Another way to make your bath/shower safer is through the use of a shower bench. They can eliminate the need to step over the edge of the bathtub by having the user sit down and swing their legs into the shower. Clean and safe!!

You should work with your doctor and/or physical therapist to evaluate your potential risk of experiencing a fall. To better enhance your chances of avoiding a fall, exercises such as yoga or tai chi are a great low impact, core strength exercise especially for older folks. Plan ahead and stay safe!!

 

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